Movie Review: Monsters Vs. Aliens
By Matthew Huntley
April 7, 2009
Monsters vs. Aliens is light, comical and jolly. As with most animated family movies, it's meant to be fun and entertaining, but the filmmakers seem to have made this their number one priority. It helps that I saw the movie in 3-D, which made me feel like I was transported back to the 1950s when the format first peaked and when science fiction/monster movies thrived in theaters. Back then, movies like this were made to tell more than a story; they were meant to be an experience.
The movie celebrates, while simultaneously parodying, classic sci-fi fare like The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. But whereas those movies were serious, and took themselves seriously, Monsters vs. Aliens is bright, goofy and satirical. I especially liked the lampooning of the American President (voiced pitch perfect by Stephen Colbert), which was obviously meant to send up George W. Bush (for some reason, it's still funny even after the man has left office).
The plot is classic sci-fi, as a young woman named Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) gets struck by a radioactive meteorite - on her wedding day no less. The accident turns her into a giant and she's captured and taken to a clandestine government holding cell where other monsters reside, including Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a once-human mad scientist who accidentally turned himself into cockroach (he still has an insatiable need to laugh like a mad scientist); B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a brainless, gelatinous blob who's easily amused; the Missing Link (Will Arnet), a half-ape/half-fish creature who thinks he's stronger than he really is; and Insectosaurus, a buggy-eyed insect the size the of a dinosaur.
All the monsters are watched over by the overzealous General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), and when Earth is attacked by an alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), Monger tells the president the monsters should be let loose to rescue the planet. Of course, none of the monsters know how to fight, but Susan is hopeful that if she does what the government says, they'll return her to her narcissistic fiance, Derek (Paul Rudd).
If the overall story of Monsters vs. Aliens feels traditional, it's the spontaneous action and random humor that livens things up. For instance, what does the president do to establish friendly communication with Gallaxhar's alien robot probe? Why he plays the theme song from Beverly Hills Cop on a keyboard, what else? And when Susan acclimates to her gigantism, running amok around San Francisco trying to dodge Gallaxhar's robot, there's an inventive chase sequence in which she fastens two cars to her feet and uses them as roller skates. Or how about when Dr. Cockroach starts break dancing to shut down Gallaxhar's mainframe computer?
The movie has five screenwriters attached to it, which is usually a recipe for disaster, but they're clearly in sync and have come up with some truly original and inspiring moments that either had me laughing out loud or smiling cheerfully.
Monster vs. Aliens may be conscious of the science fiction and monster movies of the past but it's not overtly self-aware or reflective of them, so it's possible for anyone to enjoy this movie on a number of levels. If you bring the knowledge of those other movies to the table, you'll probably like it more. And while I appreciated the 3-D format, it only enhances the experience; it doesn't make it. If you have the chance to see it in 3-D, take advantage, but the good thing about Monsters vs. Aliens is that it's a riotous treat all by itself.